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Article: SS Peterton

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    SS Peterton

    11 Comments by Brian Probetts (Site Admin) Published on 1st December 2020 10:10 AM
    My thanks to Cliff Phillips for this not to be forgotten article.


    15-year-old James Nicholson Meeks from South Shields boarded SS Peterton bound for Buenos Aires. Still two months short of the minimum age of 16, it was his first voyage as a Merchant Navy Apprentice.
    He was joined on board by an even younger recruit, Edward Briggs Hyde from Cullercoats, who had only turned 15 earlier that summer.

    Less than four weeks later on the 17th September 1942, SS Peterton was sunk by three torpedoes fired by German U-boat U-109, commanded by legendary U-boat Ace Heinrich Bleichrodt.

    The ships master was taken prisoner by the U-boat and landed at Lorient on 6 October 1942 whilst eight crew members were lost in the sinking.

    The surviving crew members found themselves in two lifeboats drifting in the Atlantic, hundreds of miles off the west coast of Africa.

    Twelve crew members in one boat were picked up by the ‘Empire Whimbrel’ after 8 days and landed at Buenos Aires on 11 October.

    A further 18 crew members and four gunners were picked up after 49 days in the open boat by HMS Canna and landed at Freetown.

    The two 15 years olds were in this boat but whereas Meeks survived, young Edward Hyde died of bronchial pneumonia in a hospital at Freetown and now lies in Freetown (King Tom) Cemetery, Sierra Leone
    The U-109 was sunk on May 04, 1943 south of Ireland by 4 depth charges from a British Liberator.



    S.S. Peterton (Newcastle on Tyne) Merchant Navy.jpg Apprentice Edward Briggs Hyde.jpgFreetown (King Tom) Cemetery, Sierra Leone.jpg
    Last edited by Brian Probetts (Site Admin); 1st December 2020 at 11:30 AM.
    Brian Probetts (site admin)
    R760142

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    Default Re: SS Peterton

    Thanks Brian, very interesting and a sad story of those lost.

    A bit more info at: https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/ship/2181.html

    Keith.
    "Our veterans did not forget about us .... Let's not forget about them." From Michael Levesque

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    Default Re: SS Peterton

    yes such a sad time .....yet today we have youngsters at uni crying out we cant have xmas or the government has stolen xmas .....perhaps all expect too much now ....but then they have the freedom to say that because of young meeks and the suffering of him and his shipmates..........cappy.....R683532

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    Default Re: SS Peterton

    The minimum age to go to sea in the Merchant Navy during WWII was 14, the school leaving age at the time.

    Cargo ship Peterton, 5,221grt, (R. Chapman & Sons) had been sailing independently from The UK to Buenos Aries with a cargo of coal after dispersing from the 21 ship Convoy OG-89. On the 17th September 1942 about 250 nautical miles North-West of the Cape Verde Islands in position 18’ 45N 29’ 15W the ship was struck by torpedo in the engine room fired from U-109 and after five minutes capsized and sank rapidly by the bow along with seven crewmembers. One lifeboat was successfully launched and another broke free as the ship sank. The U-boat then came along side the lifeboats and took the ships Master prisoner and left the remaining survivors to their fate. The two boats set a course for the Cape Verde Islands, but after seven days lost sight of each other. Twelve men in one boat were rescued the same evening by the cargo ship Empire Whimbrel, but missed sight of the second boat and eventually landed the survivors at Buenos Aries. Twenty survivors in the other boat in charge of by the ships Second Officer, who was later awarded George Medal and Lloyd's War Medal for Bravery at Sea spent forty nine days adrift in their open boat, the last six days with no food and only a few ounces of rain water to spare when they were found by the naval trawler HMT Canna who landed them at Freetown. Unfortunately the young 15 year old Apprentice died in hospital on the 16th November, nearly nine weeks after the sinking from “bronchial pneumonia” and was buried in the Freetown (King Tom) Cemetery. The Master of the Peterton was eventually interned at Milag Nord for the duration of the war.
    "Across the seas where the great waves grow, there are no fields for the poppies to grow, but its a place where Seamen sleep, died for their country, for you and for peace" (Billy McGee 2011)

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    Default Re: SS Peterton

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith at Tregenna View Post
    Thanks Brian, very interesting and a sad story of those lost.

    A bit more info at: https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/ship/2181.html

    Keith.
    It is really good that these stories are remembered with such reverence today.
    When I was at sea in the fifties,very little was spoken about the war. Even in 1958 when one of our ships (MV Seistan) blew up off Bahrain with the loss of 60 lives due to a fire in number 5 hold containing explosives, it took a long time before I found out about the death of one of the apprentices ,a good friend with whom I served most of my apprenticeship.
    Maybe it was that the war still very much in people's minds and and loss of life at sea was an everyday occurance.
    Jim Domleo
    R610307

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    Default Re: SS Peterton

    When I was at sea back in the late 50s, 60s and early 70s, I sailed with many seamen who had been in the Merchant Navy during the second world war. Sailing on the Artic, Atlantic and Mediterranean convoys, they told me about boys, some aged as young as 14, being blown to pieces, or drowning in heavy fuel oil, or being sent on the way to the bottom of the sea before they could even get out of bed and put on their life jacket. Their ship had either hit a mine, been bombed by enemy aircraft, shelled or torpedoed by the unseen U-Boats. I nearly had a fit when I read the SS Peterton piece about the minimum age for going to sea in 1940 being 16, as my latest novel, following the adventures of a 14-year-old at sea between February 1940 and February 1941, is with the publishers at this very moment about to be printed! I breathed a massive sigh of relief when I read the later article stating that the minimum age to go to sea in 1940 (School leaving age) was indeed 14.

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    Default Re: SS Peterton

    Reginald Earnshaw was aged 14 years and 152 days when he died under enemy fire on the SS North Devon on 6 July 1941. The merchant navy cabin boy had lied about his age, claiming he was 15, so he could join the war effort.

    K.
    "Our veterans did not forget about us .... Let's not forget about them." From Michael Levesque

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    Default Re: SS Peterton

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith at Tregenna View Post
    Reginald Earnshaw was aged 14 years and 152 days when he died under enemy fire on the SS North Devon on 6 July 1941. The merchant navy cabin boy had lied about his age, claiming he was 15, so he could join the war effort.

    K.
    It's true Reggie did lie about his age as I traced all the details some years ago, but he could have still legally signed on at 14. I have part of Raymond Steeds service file, who was also only 14 showing official documents that 14 was the legal requirement.
    "Across the seas where the great waves grow, there are no fields for the poppies to grow, but its a place where Seamen sleep, died for their country, for you and for peace" (Billy McGee 2011)

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    Default Re: SS Peterton

    I live in York, and in 1953 I joined the Merchant Navy, and went to the Vindi for my training, no one from my family had ever been to sea, I told some one that I was the only one to go, then I got a message from south shields, saying not you have a cousin from Shields called Thomas Dixon, who at the age of 17 Sign on the SS Engineer in West Hartlepool in February as a Cabin Boy, and the Ship was torpedo and he was killed. It made me very sad, and still does.

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    Default Re: SS Peterton

    CABIN BOY
    THOMAS WILLIAM DIXON
    Regiment & Unit/Ship
    Merchant Navy


    S.S. Empire Engineer (West Hartlepool)

    Date of Death
    Died 02 February 1941

    Age 17 years old

    Buried or commemorated at
    TOWER HILL MEMORIAL

    Panel 40.

    United Kingdom

    Son of William and Bessie Amelia Dixon, of South Shields, Co. Durham.

    https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/fi...LLIAM%20DIXON/

    .
    Last edited by Keith at Tregenna; 21st December 2020 at 10:03 PM.
    "Our veterans did not forget about us .... Let's not forget about them." From Michael Levesque

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